Ergonomics Win Boosts Small Business Optimism

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- Small business had a big victory last week with the repeal of federal regulations governing ergonomics in the workplace. Advocacy groups say with that item crossed off their agenda, they'll be able to focus on some other issues that affect the nation's smaller companies.

Congress swiftly passed legislation to repeal the regulations requiring all employers to ensure that their workers are protected from repetitive strain injuries and similar workplace-related physical problems. Lawmakers were heavily lobbied by small businesses who contended that the regulations would have created a huge financial and administrative burden.

Dan Danner, senior vice president of public policy for the Washington-based National Federation of Independent Business, said small business advocates will now be able to devote more time and effort to issues such as tort reform and superfund cleanup exemptions.

The ergonomic regulations "would have taken up a significant amount of our people's time and attention and resources because we believe the threat was so gigantic that you couldn't ignore it," Danner said.

At National Small Business United, ergonomics was second on the Washington-based organization's list of legislative priorities after income tax issues. Damon Dozier, NSBU's director of government and public affairs, said his group can now devote more time to some of the items toward the bottom of that list, including efforts to reduce the amount of paperwork that small businesses must submit to comply with government regulations.

Not all of the groups' priorities are strictly business issues. They're also anxious to see a personal income tax cut enacted because, according to NFIB estimates, 80 percent of small business owners pay individual taxes, not corporate taxes, on their enterprises. The House has passed and sent to the Senate a tax cut bill, but it is likely to be summer before any legislation is enacted.

And a very important item on the small business agenda is estate taxes, or what's known among lobbyists as the "death tax." These are taxes that can force a small business owner's family to sell a company or farm to pay levies on the estate.

The business advocates fully expect a repeal of estate taxes to be approved and signed by President Bush. A similar measure was passed by Congress last year but vetoed by President Clinton. …